MY FIRST TREK
My parents introduced my sister and me to trekking when trekking wasn’t a phenomenon as it is today. At least, it wasn’t in Raipur, now the capital city of the state of Chhattisgarh, India.
There definitely wasn’t any Facebook or Instagram to show off your latest feat on feet but of course there was “Chai par Charcha” aur charcho mein “Photo Album ka silsila” !!
There was no escaping the long – detailed description that my dad gave to each one who dared to visit us after our family weekend getaways to nearby jungles or trips around the country. I am like my father just little different… I do the same thing albeit on social media, sitting at my desk in my pyjamas !!
This BlogPost is in the loving memory of my father and his love for nature!
10 TIPS FOR TREKKING WITH CHILDREN!
When my parents went on their first trek, they were both 47 years old!! On this trek organized by YHAI, they were the oldest in the group.
TIP No.1 :
You don’t need to say goodbye to your dreams of hiking/trekking when you have kids! Rather it is a great way to combine quality family time with exploration and appreciation of nature.
Just before the Sar pass trek, I remember my parents checking up the dictionary to see how exactly a ‘Rucksack'(rʌksak) is pronounced! We were that novice and naive! The only Rucksacks we could afford then were available on rent with the NCC cadre.
Trekking shoes and pants were bought in Manali (India) and we were all set for our maiden adventure.
TIP No.2: Gradually introduce your child to trekking: From a very early age, our parents took us to small excursions or rather walks lasting few hours. They were as simple as going to a temple and driving back without us !! My sister and I would shriek and run and laugh our hearts out when we could finally catch up with the snail pace moving Fiat that my dad owned!!
As we grew older, our such wild escapades grew longer, suiting our stamina. From walks to the temple, to long nature walks, our parents gradually took us on longer walks on Forts of Maharashtra.
Arjun Majumdar, gives a detailed write up on gradually introducing children to trekking and it can be read here.
TIP No.3 :Pack patience and flexibility : While spiderman’s uncle Ben would say, “With power comes great responsibility”, I would say, “With Children comes Even Greater Responsibility !!” You will have a heavier pack on your back and a pair of tiny, less strong, legs walking alongside! Put yourself in their boots (not literally of-course, Duh!), take a deep breath and carry on!! Have patience when they stop to ask questions for they may be seeing their first Buzzard or poop shaped slug.
Let the plan be flexible. Spider webs, dew drops, a poop shaped Slug, scribbling on rocks – there’s so much of the natural world for kids to discover and examine!
Absolutely anything or everything can distract them, thereby slowing you down. But it is this sense of wonder and joy in their eyes, which makes it all so worthwhile.
TIP No.4 : Route and Pace : Which route you choose and what pace you take will depend on the stamina and sportiness of your youngest. For starters, choose the easy ones specially trails with features that interest kids like lakes, ponds, waterfalls, view of snow capped mountain to name a few. Play it safe and plan the trek with enough breaks , stopping by mid-afternoon and reaching the camp site while it’s still bright.
On our recent trek to Triund, our 8 year and 10 year old pleasantly surprised us with their speed, stamina and balance on the tricky rocky terrain.
TIP No.5 : Energy stops : Trekking requires a lot of energy both physically and psychologically and so call for rest stops before the kids ask for them. Unfortunately for my kids it’s “Maggi Point” which provides a great motivation to keep them moving on trail. On most of the trails in the Himalayas which are in the range of 12000 feet, almost all food stalls sell Steaming Hot Maggi!! But the energy stops could also be “When we reach that Rhododendron tree, we’ll stop for an energy stop” or “once those weight bearing mules reach us, we’ll stop for an energy stop”.
Don’t hesitate to go overboard in telling your child how well they are trekking, how strong and fit they look and how fast they are – even if they aren’t.
TIP No.6 : Layers, layers, layers : The trick to keeping yourself warm is LAYERING !! Don’t carry knitted heavy sweaters. They are not only heavy but also bulky. Remember to keep an extra pair of clothig – just incase your children get wet or muddy!Make sure your kids have adequate hiking shoes, depending on terrain, this could range from sandals to hiking boots. I will soon come with a detailed list of items to carry.
TIP No.7 : Leave no trace : With Trekking comes great responsbility to leave no trace. Our kids carry Quechua Arpenaz 15 ULTRALIGHT BAGS,which are very light weight to carry on back. Kids can keep dumping their own waste like chocolate/ biscuit wrappers or tissue papers etc inside the bag. Alternatively a medium size zip-lock bag or a garbage bag will also serve the purpose.
TIP No.8 : Sleeping Arrangements : Our kids get super excited about sleeping in tents. So far on all our trek with our Kids, we have always hired sleeping bags. Since, the routes we have been on are very tourist or hiker friendly, the sleeping bags are easy to find but are usually not in good shape. For this very reason, I prefer to have our own sleeping bag liners. Alternatively, the same can be made at home by stitching two sides of a single bed sheet and giving it the shape of a sarcophagus.
We usually hire a family tent but in our last trek, due to unavailability of family tent we got “2 people camping” tent. Since, we would not expect our 8 and 10 year olds to sleep in the tent all by themselves in the wild, we did the “one adult in each tent” thing. We are waiting for the day when the kids would graduate into their own tent!!
TIP No.9: Transportation: Many trekking trailheads can be reached by bus or hired taxi or at some places even with auto-rickshaws. For hubby dear and the 8-year-old, a couple of hours on winding mountain roads is a sure set recipe for sickness. On the advice of a doctor friend, whose child has a similar problem, we gave avomine tablet to the kids and they slept like babies!! Much to our relief, contrary to our previous experiences, they were fresh when they woke up and were all set to trek.
TIP No.10: Hike/Trek often! Trek with family, trek with family friends and mix it with some fun activities.
The more you go on regular hikes or treks, the more the chances of your children bonding with nature! It doesn’t matter where you are located!
Absolutely, all terrains have their own beauty to offer, each waiting to be explored by a new set of eyes, pair of legs! Find friends, find your own trail, write your own story.
Now that I’ve shared some of my “trekking with kids” tips with you, I’d love to hear from you! What’s your tip !?!